Tag Archives: Robert McWhir

Tickle: The Musical

★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

Tickle: The Musical

Tickle: The Musical

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 16th October 2019

★★★★

 

“the full-on Las Vegas style finale, ‘What Would Julie Andrews Do?’ sends the audience out into the night on a whoosh of feathers, fantasy and fun”

 

Tickle is based on a true story, and invites the audience into the strange world of competitive endurance tickling. Best friends Chris and Callum, skint and stuck in a boring town, get recruited as a tickle team by savvy businesswoman Davina Diamond, on behalf of her boss Tina Tickle. They quickly rise to the very top and are making more money than they could have dreamed of, but neither the tickling world, nor their friendship, is as straightforward as it seems. Chris Burgess (book, music and lyrics) has fashioned a delightful and playfully sexy new musical from this tale, and his four strong cast, directed by Robert McWhir, and with fabulous piano accompaniment from musical director David Eaton, do him proud.

The show’s opening number – Drab Town – is let down by its choreography, which lacks clarity, but we get a taster of James McDowell’s lovely voice, which only opens out more as the show goes on. This is McDowell’s professional musical debut, and we will most assuredly be hearing more from him. He doesn’t quite convince as a working class lad, however, and as his voice becomes richer and stronger, so his accent morphs back into his native tones. His performance becomes more natural as a result, but his character – Chris – seems to have entirely changed. This lack of consistency doesn’t really matter in the context of this light-hearted musical confection, but is something to watch. Ben Brooker, as Callum, on the other hand, is fully believable throughout, as Chris’ lovelorn best friend, but his vocal strength is inconsistent, and he doesn’t always fully hit his musical mark.

Amy Sutton is terrific as Davina, and owns the stage with sparkling charisma and a powerful, clear singing voice. Her introductory solo – the splendidly funny ‘It’s not Gay’ – gives the show the injection of oomph it needs, and allows it to drive forwards with energy and chutzpah. In this, she is aided and abetted by Rich Watkins, who is a marvellous drag Tina Tickle. Tina is a larger than life, tragi-comic creation, switching between poignant loneliness and battle-axe camp, with more than a whiff of Norma Desmond, and Watkins plays her with delicious performative relish. Tina and Davina are a formidable team, though, again, they are let down by clunky choreography, noticeable especially in their duet, ‘The Tickle Twosome’.

For the most part, the show zips along, and wears its combination of titillation, tenderness and tinsel with aplomb. There are laughs aplenty, and the full-on Las Vegas style finale, ‘What Would Julie Andrews Do?’ sends the audience out into the night on a whoosh of feathers, fantasy and fun. Just perfect to tickle your fancy on a chilly October night.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Peter H Davies

 

kings head theatre

Tickle: The Musical

King’s Head Theatre until 26th October

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World | ★★★ | July 2019
Mating In Captivity | ★★★★ | July 2019
Oddball | ★★★½ | July 2019
How We Begin | ★★★★ | August 2019
World’s End | ★★★★ | August 2019
Stripped | ★★★★ | September 2019
The Elixir Of Love | ★★★★★ | September 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World
★★★

King’s Head Theatre

Margot Dame

Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 17th July 2019

★★★

 

If allowed to, I think this piece will grow up to match the quality of Macor’s other plays

 


It’s in the title. And it is fundamentally undeniable, which is probably why writer Claudio Macor has separated the dancer from the dance to focus on the lesser known events of Fonteyn’s life. Commissioned to write the piece for the King’s Head Theatre’s annual ‘Playmill’ festival of new writing, Macor has rightly refused merely to tell us what we already know. Here we see Margot Fonteyn reinventing herself as a cattle rancher, we learn some of the reasons she kept on dancing long after she should have stopped. We get snapshots of her childhood and her relationship with her mother. And at its heart is her marriage to Roberto (Tito) Arias, the serial adulterer and dodgy Panamanian politician.

But at barely an hour long we don’t really feel the pulse of this story. We are, in fact, left wanting it to be massaged into life and given the prospect of a long and healthy future. Even given the limitations of being part of a festival, “Margot, Dame” feels underdeveloped. Thankfully we are aided by a back projection informing us when and where we are in the action as the narrative jumps about chronologically. We have fewer pointers, however, to help us decide whether we are watching a comedy or an earnest piece of drama.

Abigail Moore gives an assured portrayal of the eponymous Fonteyn. An unenviable task but she mixes the imposed affectations of the grand dame with the down to earth girl from Reigate. Neat touches such as the origin of her stage name (“… named after a hairdresser’s on Tottenham Court Road…”) season the exposition with a bit of spice. Fanos Xenofos has more scope for dramatic licence as the husband, ‘Tito’. It was a complicated relationship, and Xenofos’ performance only occasionally hints at the mystique of the man that Fonteyn had to put up with. After a failed coup to oust the President of Panama, Tito escapes and returns to Peru. Margot is arrested for her involvement in her husband’s botched attempt at gun-smuggling. When Tito was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life after an assassination attempt, Margot uses up all her savings to care for him – one of the main reasons she continued to dance so late into her life.

The story is not so much sidestepped as danced over lightly. It is a fascinating angle on Fonteyn’s life and one that refreshingly avoids the obvious. But, as if worried that the audience might lose interest, director Robert McWhir and choreographer Robbie O’Reilly have shoehorned flourishes of ballet to cover the scene changes and time shifts, which dilute rather than add flavour.

But one mustn’t lose sight of the purpose of the Playmill Festival at the King’s Head, which is a vital platform for new writing. “Margot, Dame…” has only two performances in which to reveal its essence. As Fonteyn herself famously said; “… the first night is the worst possible time to make a hard and fast criticism: the baby never looks its best on the day it is born…” If allowed to, I think this piece will grow up to match the quality of Macor’s other plays.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Peter Davies

 



Margot, Dame, The Most Famous Ballerina In The World

King’s Head Theatre until 18th July as part of Playmill New Writing Festival

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Awkward Conversations With Animals … | ★★★★ | April 2019
HMS Pinafore | ★★★★ | April 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019

 

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